Giant Bomb Review

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Transformers: War For Cybertron Review

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War For Cybertron might be the best Transformers game ever made... but that isn't exactly a high bar to best.


And yeah, he still has that big energy axe. 
When you consider the history of the Transformers franchise in video games, it's easy to want to celebrate War For Cybertron as some kind of revelation. High Moon's third-person shooter is quite a bit better than just about any Transformers game you could think of. But take it away from those easy comparisons and start to think about third-person shooting at large, and you'll find a pretty cool set of online options that are paired up with shallow, repetitive gameplay that only manages to get by if you've got some sense of nostalgia for the original set of Transformers toys or cartoons.

The game's story is set before just about every single event you can think of in the Transformers timeline, giving you some information about what the Autobots and Decepticons were doing before they crash-landed on Earth. This gives you some Transformer origins, since at the outset of the game, Optimus Prime is just "Optimus," and he isn't yet the leader of the Autobots. Starscream is unaffiliated, though he quickly falls in line when he first encounters Megatron, who is attempting to infect the planet Cybertron with "dark energon," an unstable form of energy that manifests itself as big crystal formations. The campaign itself is set chronologically, though for the first half of the game you play as the Decepticons, who gain control of the dark energon and use it to subvert the planet and attempt to take over. At halftime, you switch to the Autobot side of things, which is a bit more interesting since the Autobot side tends to actually fight named Decepticons, including fights against Starscream and Soundwave. For the most part, both factions are just mercilessly beating up generic drones that take the form of cars, jets, tanks, and so on. These enemies have no personality and aren't much fun to fight. Also, while it's totally understandable why the game's designers would need to cook up a bunch of easily repeatable enemies, it doesn't really feel like Transformers when you're just bashing robot after robot as you trudge ahead.

The game itself is a third-person shooter that feels like something of a throwback to the days before hiding behind things was so important. Though you can certainly manually stand behind a lot of objects, there's no proper cover system, and the game almost wants to rub it in by occasionally having your AI partners take proper cover during in-game cutscenes. Strafing in and out of cover feels kind of silly. Also, the game is more focused on resource management than you might expect. You're constantly looking for more ammo packs, and there were multiple occasions where I was completely running out of ammo for every single weapon I had on me. Many of the various pistols, launchers, rifles, and sniper weapons also eject cartridges as they're fired, and the weapons don't really feel like the unlimited laser blasts you might expect from a Transformer.

 The cars grip the road when boosting, but typically just hover around at will.
Of course, the big thing about being a Transformer is that you can turn into something else at the touch of a button. Though the toys were often very unique in their transformations, here every character is boiled down into one of four character classes and a couple of different vehicle types. Every single ground-based vehicle, be it a car, truck, or tank, hovers and can strafe back and forth. While each class does get some unique abilities, the similarities between the ground-based vehicles makes most of the vehicle forms feel generic. One class turns into jets, but rather than give you full-on dogfights, these jets sort of hover in place and don't feel as threatening as they probably should. You can boost in each vehicle, too, which gives you a good forward burst of momentum. This leads to what is probably the coolest part about the entire game. When you're driving and boosting ahead, if you transform back into robot form, you'll often slide on your knees for a brief period of time due to all of that speed. It looks pretty rad.

For the most part, the game looks nice, but the metallic world of Cybertron doesn't lend itself particularly well to a lot of environmental variety. The actual Transformer designs are some of the best around, with robots that sort of split the difference between the original 1980s cartoon designs and their pre-Earth, Cybertronian forms. You'll easily be able to identify guys like Optimus Prime, Soundwave, Bumblebee, Jazz, and others just by appearance. In vehicle form, things get a little crazier, and there's something thematically incorrect about having Soundwave turn into some kind of hover van, though he does turn into something that at least resembles a tape deck during one cutscene. The sound effects are spacey and very heavy on the metal-on-metal contact that you get from running, falling, using a melee attack, or just about anything else. Since the game always has three Transformers together during the campaign, you'll get a fair amount of chatter. The voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, once again reprises his role in War For Cybertron. He does a good job, but something about the dialogue he's given seems even more overwrought and dramatic than Prime's lines usually do.

The multiplayer modes let you play any campaign level cooperatively with up to three players. You can jump in or jump out of strangers' games, though the game has to be created as a co-op game--you can't have people join you on the fly if you're starting out in the solo mode. There's also a wave-based survival-type mode called Escalation that feels sort of like the Call of Duty: World At War Nazi Zombies mode, as you'll need to pay off vending machines for additional ammo, weapons, and health. Up to four players can play on two maps.

The war for Cybertron might get pretty bloody. Or, well, actually... how about oily? 
The main, competitive multiplayer sticks to the player persistence and unlockable add-ons that became so popular back in Call of Duty 4, but it maintains some semblance of its class-based structure. Each of the four classes gets its own weapon selections and killstreak bonuses, and you'll level up each class individually to unlock additional perks and abilities. Some of these let scouts stay cloaked longer or provide health bonuses to your entire team. Then there's martyrdom, which does exactly what it sounds like, but it drops "thermo mines" instead of hand grenades. Some of the similarities seem shameless, but it's a proven system that works, so it's not a negative thing to see this style of multiplayer applied to a very different-feeling game.

The multiplayer, which allows up to 10 players at once, offers standard shooter modes, like team deathmatch, node control modes, and a couple of takes on capture the flag. Though it sometimes feels like melee attacks are a little too effective, the competitive side of War For Cybertron is its strongest suit. The abilites feel useful and it's way more fun to take on human opposition than it is to grind through the monotonous campaign. It probably won't replace whatever popular shooter you're currently hooked on, but War For Cybertron's multiplayer makes for a good diversion.

That's really the best thing that can be said about Transformers: War For Cybertron. Its campaign is only worth seeing through if you're extremely curious to see how it ties into some of the other Transformers lore out there, and the multiplayer is solid, if perhaps a bit uninspired. It's a good diversion that'll keep you engaged for a few days, but don't go in expecting long-term excitement.     Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
140 Comments
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Posted by MjHealy

What Jeff says, goes!

Posted by Rhaknar

Expected after hearing Jeff on TNT. Still want to get it tho, Im a huge TF fan

Posted by Tactical_Kill

I was wondering when he was gonna review this.

Posted by 1337W422102

Also, please be aware of the plethora of issues regarding the PC version.  In the lazy PC port, you cannot customize your controls, the FPS is locked at 30, you cannot change graphical options other than resolution and texture quality, the camera is more sensitive on the X-axis than the Y-axis and you cannot balance them, there will be no DLC available (confirmed by Activision), there is no chat in multiplayer mode (text, voice, animations, scripted orders, etc), and there are no dedicated servers.

Posted by SJSchmidt93

Gotta disagree. I'd give it 4 stars. 
 
It's a pretty good game.

Posted by Landon

Guess I'll give this a rent. I really liked the demo.

Posted by Jayzilla

Sweet. Now I know to stay away from this or maybe rent it. The PC version sounds terrible and that would have been the platform to get it for seeing as Steam has it for cheaper than the 360 price.

Posted by Milkman

About what I expected.

Posted by Church069

I was beginning to think that some of reviewers of this game were crazy calling this game this year's Batman: Arkham Asylum.  This review tells me that yes they are crazy.  The multiplayer looks pretty good from what I saw on TNT, even though the concepts aren't entirely original.  Maybe I'll see if  I could rent this sometime.

Posted by MichaelBach

Hmm...  looks like other reviewers are liking it a whole bunch more, also I thought the demo was great.

Edited by Delta_Ass

3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on.

Posted by NeoNightmareX

I might rent it.

Posted by FLStyle

As far as I know, pre-Optimus Prime Optimus was known as Orion Pax.

Edited by CouncilSpectre

Thanks for the great review.  I only made it part way through before a bug caused it to freeze up on me and I had to return it to the store.  When it worked it was definetly 3 star quality.

Posted by HolyCrapItsAdam

I am gonna give it a rent

Posted by RE_Player1

I knew this game was just ok. All the people that watched Transformers when they were kids reviewed this game and were like "ZOMG TRANSFORMERS 9/10". Its good to know Jeff just takes a step back and realizes the license of the game doesn't make it an amazing game. 

Posted by S0ndor

Good review. It seems that many sites were very quick to give it an 8 or even a 9 (IGN) just because it is "the greatest Transformers game ever made". I felt that this review is more realistic.

Posted by ghostNPC

Worth a definite rental if you're a transformers fan, in my opinion. 

Posted by VictoryCheezin

actually heard good things about this 

Posted by Norusdog

word, want to check this out

Posted by Ishatawk

I really don't know if I should even be interested in this.

Posted by Dracomaster01

Even though I like your review, I disagree that this game is worth 3 stars, for me atleast. I would give it a 4, I enjoyed the campaign, even though playing on the hardest difficulty alone is a bitch and the multiplayer has torn me away from MW2, BFBC2. I can see myself playing this for awhile. Good review still, but I just disagree.
Posted by Ares42

I'm thinking this is more of a SP review. If you just skip the campaign and go for MP it's definitely a 4.

Posted by AlwaysAngry
@Delta_Ass said:
" 3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on. "
This is why I HATE the 5 star rating system.
Posted by tweetspot

rame

Posted by MementoMori

cool.

Posted by buzz_killington

I'm never not expecting long-term excitement.

Posted by ptys

I knew it! IGN gave this a 9.0, but the guy reviewing it didn't really explain why it was so great?.. Rookie. Well that solves that, I won't be getting coned into this nostalgia. Thanks Jeff.

Posted by PerryVandell
@SnailBumps said:
" Eat shit Jeff, this game is tits "
@MjHealy said:
" What Jeff says, goes! "
@Delta_Ass said:
" 3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on. "
I really hope that the above people are being sarcastic, for this is one of the most irritating things I can see when viewing the comments of a review. For some reason, people don't understand that a review is an opinion and just because you disagree with the review, doesn't mean that the review or the person is bad. Again, if all three of these are sarcasm, then my mistake, but it's hard to stand idly by, when crap like this happens.
Edited by Olivaw

I don't really understand why Jeff doesn't like the campaign.
 
He says it gets a little boring shooting generic robots and complains about the lack of a cover system even though he constantly makes fun of the number of third person cover-based shooters on the market today. And I guess it is a little grey and metallic, but it's a planet of robots, I can deal with that.

Is it the difficulty? Is it the lack of interesting boss fights? Is it the story? What's the problem? Because this game is like forty bucks on Steam and people I know are all up on this game like whoa. What's so bad about it?

Posted by DBagalot

Ah honest review, just what i like.

Posted by papercut

well this game turned out better then I imagined. might rent it.

Posted by Jeffsekai

Wait this got worse than Wolfenstine? lmao oh god please

Posted by kjabr88
@ghostNPC said:

" Worth a definite rental if you're a transformers fan, in my opinion.  "

 I had very little exposure to Transformers growing up (I'm 22 btw), but I had a $10 gift card and decided to buy it on a whim, and I'm having a blast! Campaign does get a tiny bit monotonous, but the mp is fantastic and makes up for it. The witty dialogue between the characters in the campaign also makes it more fun and kind of keeps you going.
Posted by TheKing

Meh... I like it.

Posted by mazik765
@Delta_Ass said:
" 3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on. "
This. This game is fun and addictive in the best ways. 4/5 stars for me, it is this years Arkham Asylum.
Posted by JDUB_XL

Multiplayer is where its at!

Posted by 71Ranchero

The campaign was fantastic, no clue what he is ragging on. 4.5 starts from me. PC version is fine btw.

Posted by AlwaysAngry
@Fullmetal216 said:
" @SnailBumps said:
" Eat shit Jeff, this game is tits "
@MjHealy said:
" What Jeff says, goes! "
@Delta_Ass said:
" 3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on. "
I really hope that the above people are being sarcastic, for this is one of the most irritating things I can see when viewing the comments of a review. For some reason, people don't understand that a review is an opinion and just because you disagree with the review, doesn't mean that the review or the person is bad. Again, if all three of these are sarcasm, then my mistake, but it's hard to stand idly by, when crap like this happens. "
Yeah, it's an opinion. But when you have thousands of people looking at your review, you have to think more objectively. I can rate Fallout 3 2/5 stars, but if I was a professional reviewer, I wouldn't review the game because I know it doesn't deserve that rating, it's just my shitty opinion. 
 
 
For real though, I hate Fallout 3...
Posted by DanielJW
@Delta_Ass said:
" 3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on. "
Who gives a shit what he rated it? It's how he feels about it, not you. Your opinion is just as much bad comedy as his.
Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

This game gets pretty close. I figure that even with the 4 vehicle classes they should mix up the vehicle designs a bit more! And the setting for the game isn't completely interesting but it's unfortunately on the steel planet. The melee has also been a problem for me. I feel like being a sniper and being a melee fighter goes hand in hand, which is bizarre. Real close. Gears comparisons considered, it feels way more natural there then anywhere else!

Posted by Delta_Ass
@DanielJW said:
" @Delta_Ass said:
" 3 stars, Jeff? This is bad comedy.
 
EDIT: To put it into perspective, is this game really on par with such luminaries as Dark Void and Alpha Protocol? Come the fuck on. "
Who gives a shit what he rated it? It's how he feels about it, not you. Your opinion is just as much bad comedy as his. "
I guess I give a shit what he rated it, since I posted a comment about it. And this is how I feel about how he feels about it, not you.
Posted by SumDeus

I at least like the art style.

Posted by DanielJW
@Delta_Ass: Why do you care? You can disagree but you don't have to be abrasive about it. 
Posted by Delta_Ass
@DanielJW said:
" @Delta_Ass: Why do you care? You can disagree but you don't have to be abrasive about it.  "
 
I wasn't abrasive about it.
Posted by defaulttag

I'm a TF fan, and if you're in a similar situation, I'd say it's worth experiencing. BUY IT, it's a solid third person shooter. I don't have funds right now, but I'll totally get this so I can play with my cousin

Posted by Lydian_Sel

Disappoint to hear but not surprising in the least. After playing the multiplayer demo for a few hours it got kinda boring & repetitive so if that's the what the game does the best I think I'll give it a miss. Maybe a year down the road if I see it in a bargain bin or something.

Posted by Darknaut
@AlwaysAngry:  Calling someone a professional reviewer is basically saying "professional opinion giver." That's all it is; an opinion. If those reading the opinion haven't the ability to deduce that what they are reading is, in fact, simply the opinion of one man, then the blame does not fall upon the reviewer. Jeff played a game, wrote his thoughts down, and posted them up for us to read. Community members will do the same.    
 
Honestly, I think if he passed the game on to another reviewer because of any supposed bias he might harbor, that'd be more biased than not sending it on. This site was founded on that principle, and everyone falls in love with it until a review is given that they don't agree with (not stating this at you, directly, but the God of War 3 review, for example, rings some bells). Should a reader disagree with a review, the reader's mind is already made up, and there's no purpose to get all uppity at the reviewer.  
 
Then again, it's a lot more fun to just yell and tell people to ingest fecal matter than it is to think. 
Posted by Truitt

Nooo

Posted by Skytylz

I have no interest in this game some reason.

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